If one's parents are sinners, how can that person obey them? What are the boundaries of obeying parents?

The Details of the Question

If one's parents are sinners, how can that person obey them? What are the boundaries of obeying parents?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Asma bint Abi Bakr narrates:

"My mother, who was still a polytheist then, came to my house. I asked the Prophet (pbuh) how I should treat her:

'My mom has come to my house and wants to talk to me. Shall I treat her well?' The Prophet (pbuh) said,

'Yes. Show respect to her.'"[Bukhari, Hiba 28, Adab 8; Muslim, Zakah 50 (1003); Abu Dawud, Zakah, 34 (1668)]

There are discussions about Asma's mother mentioned in the hadith. What matters for us is the decree the hadith expresses. It is understood from the hadith that it is necessary to fulfill our duties and to show respect toward our parents even if they are unbelievers. The decree that it is wajib to give nafaqa (sustenance money) to parents even if they are unbelievers is extracted from this hadith.

The importance of the issue to show respect to parents and to give them sustenance money even if they are unbelievers is understood from the fact that revelation was sent after the hadith mentioned above and the issue was made definite by the Quran:

"Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just." (al-Mumtahina, 60/8)

The following verse is clearer regarding respect toward parents:

"But if they strive to make the join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge obey them not; Yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration) and follow the way of those who turn to Me (in love)…" (Luqman, 31/15)

According to those explanations, it is understood directly that it is necessary to show respect to Muslim parents no matter how sinful they are.

To obey is one thing and to rebel is another. We are ordered to definitely obey our parents unless rebellion against Allah is in question. Then, it is necessary to fulfill all of their orders that are not contrary to the orders of Allah. Their request that are contrary to Allah’s orders cannot be fulfilled; however, it is necessary not to rebel against them. These requests are not fulfilled; it is better to keep silent and to continue showing respect to them.

It is Allah who changes hearts. It is necessary to take refuge in Him. The love and respect shown to parents by children may cause the hearts of parents to soften. The aim should be to win their hearts.

Our religion regards aunts and uncles as mothers and fathers. Therefore, respect shown to them is regarded as respect shown to parents. Their haram requests cannot be fulfilled but it is necessary to show respect to them and to visit them.

As for the other relatives, it is not appropriate to stop visiting them. Instead of stopping visiting them, it is necessary to try to show them the right path even if they are sinners.

Anybody can act like a brother when a person has a good and easy life. What matters is to act like a brother when a person has hard times and not to leave that person alone with evil deeds and sins. This is the real friendship and brotherhood.

It is our duty to try to complete the missing deeds of our relatives who make some mistakes and who have some wrong beliefs in terms of Islamic life and to introduce them the truth. 

The advice of Allah Almighty to the Prophet (pbuh) is clear:

"And admonish thy nearest kinsmen." (ash-Shuara, 26/214)

Is this divine advice not valid for all of us?

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